I sometimes, nay, constantly find myself wishing these DJs would just shut up and let their mixes do the talking. On Adam X’s liner notes, we learn that On the One and Two is a mix intended as a soundtrack to the 11 years he has spent involved in underground music. Fair enough. That offers some perspective, gives us an idea of where he’s heading. Oh, but he can’t let it rest. “Owning over several thousand records and presenting a compilation of less than one percent of this amount is very complex.” Yeah, that’s one of the challenges of being a DJ, dude. On his time spent over a decade selling records, making music and traveling as a DJ: “Maybe you can imagine what effects such activities would have on the mind over such a lengthy duration of time.” I don’t suppose I can, Mr. Successful Guy, but maybe your music will enlighten me. Wait! There’s more: “Many might consider music as just something to dance to and enjoy for the moment. Rather, I incorporate both the positive and negative energies of life into the mix to obtain the most realistic vision of everyday life.” So, unlike all those other fluffy DJs, he’s a real artist. Heavy, man, heavy.
Well, after reading that I figured I was not only going to hear the soundtrack to some DJ’s life, but to a really pretentious DJ’s life. A harsh opinion? Perhaps, but the selections only confirmed my fears. Because there’s not only a lot of dark techno, there’s a lot of, yep, pretentious dark techno, with Malaria! vs. Chicks on Speed’s “Kaltes Klares Wasser” remix being possibly the worst offender. An endless German refrain (“cold clear water” in English), something about the armpit of America, and so on. Yikes. Other high-and-mighty techno monstrosities with faux-political overtones include Frankie Bones’ “It’s Good For America” (“Every dollar I take / Every dollar I take / Every dollar I take is good for America”) and DHS’ “House of God” remix. And on the outright cheesy tip, there’s A Split Second’s “Muscle Machine”. The song’s vocals? “This fucking muscle machine” repeated over and over and over.
Which is not to say the whole mix is something you’d expect Dieter (“Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!”) to gyrate to if he was feeling all moody and political. There are some solid, hard hitting yet groovy tracks, including Galactica’s “Red Eyes Red Lights” and Genie’s “Night at the Opera”, with its grinding drum sounds, industrial atmospherics and eerie female vocals. And in terms of presenting his “vision of the future”, (another key point in the liner notes), Adam does score a victory with the inclusion of Reade Truth’s “Explosive Force”, with the teched-out sound and “nuclear device” vocals painting a grim, apocalyptic image. And as intent as Adam X is on presenting dark, futuristic music, he does display a sense of humor as well, most notably by throwing in Beroshima’s reworking of “Mr. Roboto”. (“You always work, you’re made of steel, you are the best. But last night you went to far when you made love to my wife.” Dig it!) Adam doesn’t always get it, but there’s a difference here between good cheese and bad cheese. “Domo Arrigato Mr. Roboto”, good. “Muscle Machine”, bad.
While On the One and Two has its fair share of goofy choices, the more solid picks make it an uneven mix at worst, my somewhat petty issues with the liner notes aside. In fact, the main problem is that X takes forever to get to the more engaging tracks. After the dark ambient intro, he takes no less than five tracks building up to a full song. And while techno-junkies may dig all that old-school 909 programming, most folks will be bored to tears by the good 15 minutes of mind-numbingly repetitive drum loops. By the time X drops The Mover’s “Frontal Sickness”, with its classic high hat samples and dark tech buzzing, a lot of listeners may well be tuned out. For a guy who’s been involved with dance music (or the integration of positive and negative energy, as X might say) for so long, you think he’d have a better sense of when to kick the mix into high gear and let the audience dance already.
So as a soundtrack, what does On the One and Two show us? Adam X is revealed as man who can’t always tell the good from the bad, perhaps takes himself a smidge too seriously, and tends to beat the audience over the head a bit with the “message” of his music. But on the plus side, we get a DJ with a true love of underground techno and the ability to throw down some really slamming and occasionally fun selections when he lightens up a little. Dance music buffs may appreciate the stroll through memory lane, but other will likely find many of the selections more difficult than enjoyable.
// Notes from the Road
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